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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, February 19, 2007
    Describing what remains
    In his essay Approaches to What?, written in 1973, [French writer Georges] Perec uses the term L'Infra-ordinaire (the Infra-ordinary) to describe the practice of attending to the particularities of everyday life which are neither exotic nor banal, the idea that we should observe what happens when nothing happens, as this is the texture of life as it is experienced. Perec describes exercises which can be used to attune ourselves to the infra-ordinary. He urges "describe what remains: what we generally don't notice, which doesn't call attention to itself, which is of no importance, what happens when nothing happens, what passes when nothing passes except time, people, cars, and clouds."

    - in The Extraordinary Ordinary, Rosemary Shirley's introductory essay in the catalogue to The Caravan Gallery's recent Portsmouth retrospective.

    More on Perec here, including these valuable quotes:

    Trains begin to exist only when they are derailed, the more passengers are dead, the more trains exist; planes have access to existence only when they are hijacked; the only meaningful destiny for cars is crashing into a sycamore: fifty-two weekends per year, fifty-two totals; so many dead and all the better for the news if the figures keep increasing! [...] In our haste to measure the historic, the meaningful, the revealing, we leave aside the essential.

    What really happens, what we live, all the rest, where is it?